The Palestinian-American Kansas City Café With Stellar Hummus

Can hummus be life-altering? Or enough to earn a restaurant national accolades? It can, according to Bon Appétit's review of Baba's Pantry in Kansas City, Missouri, a Palestinian-American café on its list of the Best New Restaurants of 2022. The reviewer said the velvety hummus alone could have been enough to get the family-run restaurant a spot on this year's list, even calling it "perhaps the best we've ever had." Luckily, there is much more to love about Baba's Pantry. 

Yahia Kamal (the "Baba" of Baba's pantry) came to the United States as a refugee in 1979 and has called Kansas City home since 2000. His experience in the food industry spans 25 years, during which time he has enthusiastically shared his love of authentic Palestinian cuisine and the recipes he learned from his mother (via Baba's Pantry). It wasn't until 2021 that his dream of owning a restaurant became a reality. 

In addition to its stellar hummus, this brightly colored café offers traditional dishes like falafels, kebabs, and shawarmas, along with sides like tabouli and "Baba's" ghanoush. Turkish coffee is brewed in a traditional copper pot and the baklava is so sticky and sweet one might think a bee will crawl out of its puffy layers. Exciting dishes like a shawarma made with jackfruit are also on the menu, to complement Kansas City's growing vegan culture, while still playing with Palestinian flavors and Baba's signature seasonings (via Bon Appétit). 

Family makes it possible

Beyond the food, what makes Baba's Pantry so special, and perhaps so successful, is that the entire family is involved. Each gave up what they were doing at the time and jumped headfirst into this endeavor. Yahia Kamal's oldest son, Kamal, an interior designer who lives in New York, designed the colorful restaurant space, making sure to honor his family's culture and history. His other son Omar left a job at Apple to join the family business. Baba's wife, Yusra Abu-Alhassab, may be the one to bring you the pastry named for her and a cup of Turkish coffee for dessert.

In a Bon Appétit interview with Yahia Kamal and his two sons, Kamal shares that this restaurant was redeeming for him after so many years in the food industry, and having his family run it with him afforded him the freedom to break from limitations.

"It's really important for us to present the uniqueness of where we come from and the ways in which the food and service are specific and represent a rich tradition," Yahia Kamal said. "We want to present everything in the Palestinian way — we are here; we're welcoming; we're involved with the customers; and we're serving them the best ingredients we can find."

With a spot on Bon Appétit's list of 10 best new restaurants of the year, it's safe to say the family has accomplished that goal.